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The Secret to Cultivating a Morning Routine

(...or any habit for that matter!)

Before I dive into how to cultivate a morning routine, I want to provide a few quotes as food for thought.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” - Lamentations 3:22-23
“The dawning of every new day could be seen as a symbol of God’s light breaking through the darkness and His mercy overcoming our troubles. Every morning demonstrates God’s grace, a new beginning in which gloom must flee. We need look no further than the breath in our lungs, the sun that shines upon us, or the rain that falls to nourish the soil. The mercies of God continue to come to us via a multitude of manifestations” - Got Questions
“If you win the morning, you win the day.” - Tim Ferris
"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." - Marcus Aurelius

After reflecting on those sentiments, it seems as though a morning well spent brings a day of content. When we tackle our mornings, we set our day up for success and productivity. What a blessing each new morning is: A new day. A fresh start. New mercies. New opportunities.

Tackling our morning allows us to lead a successful day, and inevitably a successful life. Success Coach, Hal Elrod, insists, “How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days - which inevitably create a successful life - in the same way that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life. By simply changing the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible." Simply put, purposeful morning routines can lead to a transformed, enhanced life.

I don't know about you, but an enhanced life sounds pretty good to me. In order to understand how to cultivate a morning routine, follow these 3 simple steps.

  1. Asses your current morning routine. What do you actually do in the morning? Write it down. Be brutally honest with yourself. The more truthful you are, the more helpful this activity will be.

  2. Create your ideal morning routine. This routine should be one you hope becomes an automatic habit realistically over the next 2-9 months. For example... 6:15 am Wake up & make the bed. 6:20 am Put on exercise clothes, brush teeth. 6:25 am Drink 22oz of water. 6:30 am Exercise. 7:15 am Drink protein shake. Shower. 7:25 am Get dressed. 7:30 am Quiet time: Read Scripture, gratitude journal, pray. 8:00 am Eat a nutrient-dense breakfast. 8:20 am Get ready (hair + makeup). 8:45 am Take the dog for a walk. 9:00 am Start work.

  3. Compare your current (actual) morning routine to your desired morning routine. Take your current morning routine and add one-two small action steps to it. Habit expert, James Clear, calls this habit stacking. His habit stacking formula is: After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]. For example, After I brush my teeth in the morning, I will drink 12-22oz of water. Or, Before I get dressed in the morning, I will start my goal of exercising small by just doing 20 push-ups and 20 sit-ups. Once you feel confident in this, you can continue stacking more and more habits.

Habit stacking allows for quicker success as you are more likely to stick with it because you attached it to something you have been doing for years (James Clear). Additionally, changing your routine will feel significantly less daunting and more manageable, thus resulting in success. You will no longer be dependent on ample motivation. Over time these tasks will become second nature, allowing you to add more and more to these current habits, completely reworking your morning routine.

For those of you who are still skeptical and worried about changing your habits, I want to provide you with more information on habits and habit change.

First, a habit has three parts:

  1. The behavior itself

  2. A trigger that sets off the automatic behavioral response

  3. The reward

(Duke Integrative Medicine).

“Creating new habits requires developing new neural pathways in the brain. With repeated action, the brain is rewired and the new behavior becomes normal” (Duke Integrative Medicine).

When habit stacking, one uses a current habit that is in place as the trigger for the new habit that will set off the automatic behavioral response. This allows us to take the current rhythms we already have and enhance them more and more until they are at the level we desire. The process of change isn’t simply creating a goal or destination, but rather it involves mapping out how to reach your goal and what milestones to hit along the way (Duke Integrative Medicine). Slow change and implementing action steps one act a time enables you to move from a place of uncertainty to sustainable, measurable progress (Duke Integrative Medicine).

Second, as you embark on this journey of implementing healthy habits in your morning routine, I want you to understand habit change takes time. You may have heard it takes 21 days (or maybe even 30 days) to hardwire a habit. This is a myth that people love to believe. 21 days feels just long enough to be believable and just short enough to commit (James Clear). Yes, it may take you only 21 days to implement a habit, but typically it takes longer.

A research study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at the University College of London, researched how long it takes to form a habit. She examined 96 people over a 12 week period. Each individual implemented one new habit over 12 weeks and reported each day if they did the behavior and how automatic it felt (James Clear). Two examples of the behaviors implemented include…“Drinking a bottle of water with lunch," or "Running for 15 minutes before dinner.” (James Clear).

Lally and her team found on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. However, it can take even shorter, or even longer. The general amount of time it takes to form a new habit depends on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, individuals took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to form a new, automatic habit. Additionally, Researchers in Lally’s study also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process” (Lally). AKA, you can mess up occasionally. Like most everything else, habit change is not an all-or-nothing mentality.

Lastly, I hope this research encourages you in at least these three ways:

  1. You no longer have to feel stressed or like a failure if you struggle to cultivate a habit within 21 days…the process of habit change is slow and steady.

  2. There is grace. You don’t need to be a perfectionist to cultivate a healthy habit. A few slip-ups won’t derail you.

  3. Habit change is a process. Our life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!

So with that, make a plan! Incrementally start implementing new behaviors through habit stacking. I can't wait to hear about what behaviors you implement and what current habit you stack it with! Let me know in the comments below. :)


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